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Mobile Game Banned in China, Exec Resigns After Netizens Find Coded Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Slogan in Song

That the song didn’t even appear in the Taiwanese game wasn’t enough to spare it from the wrath of the mainland.
July 22, 2020, 9:09am
People wave a flag that reads "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" alongside a U.S. flag during a rally in Hong Kong on January 19, 2020. Philip FONG / AFP

The musical director for Taiwanese developer Rayark Games has stepped down, and one of its games has been banned in China after it was discovered that the man posted a piece of music to Soundcloud that contained a coded reference to a Hong Kong protest slogan.

According to the state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times, the piece of music, titled Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was posted in March to the Soundcloud account of a user called ICE, a pseudonym of then-Rayark Musical Director Wilson Lam. The song, netizens discovered, contained the popular protest chant “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” in Morse code.

The discovery of the coded reference to the slogan in the Soundcloud song sparked an outcry on the mainland, leading to Lam tendering his resignation on Saturday and to the Rayark title Cytus II being removed from mainland app stores. Cytus II is a game that requires players to press buttons in sequence to the rhythm of the music playing.

Hong Kong’s months-long pro-democracy protest movement last year, which saw millions come out to oppose a widely loathed bill allowing for extraditions to the mainland, was painted in the heavily censored Chinese media as a foreign-backed separatist plot marked by hooliganism and acts of terror.

Since then, following the passage of Beijing-mandated national security law in Hong Kong, the “liberate Hong Kong” slogan has been declared a forbidden expression of support for Hong Kong “secession.”

The Soundcloud piece has since been removed from ICE’s account, in a statement posted to Facebook, Lam insisted that uploading the song had been a personal choice, and was unrelated to Rayark.

The developer’s agent company on the mainland, Dragonest Games, also issued a statement maintaining that “the song is a personal creation, is not in the game, and neither Dragonest nor Rayark were informed of the incident. The song doesn’t represent the position of Dragonest and Rayark.”

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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.